Puppy socialisation - an overview

In our guide to how to socialise your puppy, we explain the training and experiences your new puppy should have in their first few weeks with you.

Puppy socialisation- what and when

What an exciting time! A new puppy is joining your family! When they arrive with you, from a minimum of 8 weeks old, they should essentially be a blank canvas, behaviour-wise. A responsible breeder will have made a great start ensuring the first 8 weeks of the puppy socialisation period has been a good one. 

This is of the utmost importance for your puppy’s happiness – and your experience of being their puppy parent – for the rest of their lives.

It’s crucial to continue the good work at this stage and through the first year of their life. This way, you’ll be giving your puppy the best chance of becoming a well-behaved and happy adult dog.

If you’re new to dog owing, or aren’t sure what you need to do, read this puppy socialisation week by week guide. 

Week 8 onwards - bringing your puppy home

From 8 weeks old is the time your puppy is ready to come home with you. There’s a lot for them to take in at this stage and much to learn. So – aside from helping them learn things, the most important thing you can do for your puppy is to give them plenty of down-time to provide them with peace, quiet, and much-needed sleep. They are babies and need their sleep to feel confident to learn and settle happily into your family. Watch our video, click here.

Apart from settling them into your home, you need to think about the socialisation process. It’s a great time to enrol puppies in puppy socialisation classes. Vet practices quite often run ‘puppy parties’, giving your puppy a chance to meet and play with lots of other puppies. It’s also time to get them used to the a car. Start by letting them explore the car without the engine running. Take them on short journeys, to begin with, and give them a small treat if they seem calm and relaxed. It’s essential to provide them with positive experiences every time!

The next socialisation skill to work on is being left alone. Start with leaving them for short periods, from 5 minutes upwards. If you are planning on crate training, start now. Leave the puppy with something to distract them, such as a puppy chew or toys. Build up time alone gradually, over a few weeks, to avoid them developing separation anxiety. Start toilet training, 'watch me' and recall, using positive reward-based training.  

10-12 weeks

At this point in the puppy socialisation period, your puppy is due their second vaccination. Once this is complete, check with your vet whether you can get out and about, away from home. They may advise it’s best to wait until the third vaccination is complete at 12 weeks. 

Build up new social experiences gradually during these few weeks. Try and take the puppy to places they will need to be comfortable with during adulthood. Show them the train station and local shops. Introduce them to farm animals and horses. It’s a great time to progress from puppy parties to actual training classes, enabling them to learn basic commands and carry on meeting lots of other dogs and people. 

The more work you put in now, the easier it is for your puppy to accept new situations as they grow older. Always take very new experience at your puppy’s own pace – and never force them to ‘face their fears’. This will have the opposite effect of what you are hoping for – and give you a puppy that is scared of those things they weren’t ready to enjoy. Take things slowly, and reward every new experience with praise and high-value treats.

15 weeks onwards

Keep up the excellent work! Walks in rural and urban areas, meeting dogs and people, car trips, and short periods left alone need to continue. The initial puppy socialisation week by week is nearly at an end, but training and socialisation should continue until your puppy is at least one year old. 

It really is worth it in the end. Your puppy will be a happy, well-rounded adult dog who is happy to go anywhere and face any situation!

With an Agria Pet Insurance policy, you can access the free Pet Health Helpline, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The veterinary-trained team will advise on any concerns or queries that you may have over your pet’s health – much like the NHS 111 service for people. Call free on 03333 32 19 47.